Hendersonville trans youth nationally recognized

At 18, Henry Asher Seaton is already a distinguished young person. Despite the social and academic challenges inherent in many high school settings, Seaton recently finished his four years at Beech High School. With an impressive portfolio of academic and personal achievements, he landed a summer internship with Bank of America’s competitive Student Leaders program.

The program recognizes community-minded high school students across the country and connects them to employment, skills development and service opportunities. There are approximately 200 students in the Student Leaders program nationwide; Seaton is one of five in the greater Nashville area.

Seaton was selected for the tangible impact his leadership and passion have placed on the Hendersonville community and his academic excellence. At Beech High School, he served one year on the Student Council Committee and participated in the school show choir. Seaton dedicated most of his high school career, however, to establishing and developing the Human Rights Alliance. He and his friends founded the group to put an end to the everyday bullying and discrimination he witnessed in the hallways and classrooms.

“I wanted to establish an organization that fought for an inclusive, welcoming learning environment,” Seaton said. “The Human Rights Alliance celebrates equality for all different kinds of people, which makes it much more inviting. Although members may disagree on certain issues, we are all passionate about acceptance and anti-bullying in our school environment.”

Through the organization, Seaton fights for all human rights, but he admits he is most passionate about LGBT rights at Beech High School and in his own Hendersonville community — an interest that stems from the adversity he endured personally after he publically identified as LGBT.

“After I came out as transgender my junior year, I wasn’t elected to any of the leadership positions I wanted, despite all of my accomplishments in the years before,” Seaton said. “I come from a small, very conservative town. People aren’t very accepting of things that aren’t ‘normal’ by their definition.”

Rather than growing discouraged by his classmates’ and community’s reactions, Seaton channeled the dissonance into motivation to make a real change in his own life and the lives of his peers. After founding the Human Rights Alliance, Seaton continued his involvement with the LGBT community and established a voice for himself. Today, Seaton serves as a chapter leader for the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network and is involved with several local pride and LGBT groups. He also petitioned fiercely against HB2414, Tennessee’s proposed “bathroom bill,” in the spring. Seaton certainly has made a difference.

This summer, Seaton supplemented his LGBT volunteerism with a hands-on mentoring role at the Oasis Center as a Student Leader intern.  The Oasis Center provides assistance and programs to vulnerable young people to help them thrive and transition to healthy adulthoods. Alongside other Student Leaders, Seaton taught and guided local youth through the Nashville Scholar’s Academy program, a month-long summer learning program offered at the Oasis Center.

“These Student Leaders are motivated, passionate and inquisitive. They’re constantly seeking ways to positively influence their local communities and beyond,” said John Stein, Tennessee state president, Bank of America. “It is our hope that the Student Leaders experience will help them become stronger leaders, regardless of their career path.”

While the program focuses primarily on academic enrichment, the Nashville Scholar’s Academy also offers College Knowledge workshops and extracurricular activities. Seaton’s role as a peer mentor was to help these students discover their personal identities and learn about the resources that allow them to pursue college degrees through non-traditional channels.

“I was really excited about the opportunity to broaden my volunteer work outside of the LGBT community,” Seaton said. “My time with these young people has been incredibly powerful and moving, and I feel like I’ve learned so much from these last few weeks.”

In addition to the paid summer internship at the Oasis Center, the Bank of America Student Leaders program also invited Henry and the other 200 Student Leaders across the country to a week-long Leadership Summit in Washington D.C. Taking place in mid-July, the Leadership Summit focused on building a more inclusive society and exploring the different pathways to leadership. As an attendee, Henry had the opportunity to connect with many elected officials in Tennessee and elsewhere, including Sen. Bernie Sanders, Rep. Diane Black and Sen. Bob Corker.

“I already wish I could go back to D.C. and relive the entire week,” Seaton said. “It was an inspiring reminder that transgender youth, or all youth for that matter, have a voice in today’s society.”

After his summer internship, Seaton will commit one year to LGBT activism throughout Nashville. He has an upcoming internship with the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee and has created a support and empowerment group for LGBT youth called MobiUS, which will begin convening in late August. Seaton plans to enroll in a four-year college with a strong socio-legal program. After completing his undergraduate coursework, Seaton hopes to study law so that he can pursue a career as a human rights lawyer.

 

 

 

 

Photo courtesy of Jose Cuervo

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